10 Ways to Combat Summer Gathering Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is serious, especially for introverts like myself, here are a few tips to combat our fears.
With restrictions lifted, and the vaccine rolling out summer time get togethers will be much needed! However, for some of us folks, social anxiety looms in the background at the thought of crowds, and unfamiliar people. How we cope and find balance during these moments so we can stay engaged and enjoy our family and friends is the key!
To say that this past year has been difficult would be a massive understatement. The pandemic has changed many aspects of life, especially our social lives and how we interact with people on a day-to-day basis. Recent times are showing the light at the end of the tunnel. Many are envisioning what summer gatherings will look like as we continue on the path to normalcy. Some are very much looking forward to being able to safely gather with friends and family, but others may feel a little socially anxious after a year of Zoom happy hours. It is perfectly fine to feel this way, especially given all that has happened in the past year. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental disorder and affects roughly 40 million adults in the United States. Not only that, but a 2020 survey unveiled that 62% of respondents experienced some anxiety during that given year.
Can I tell you a secret? I have always been an introvert at heart, and to tell you the truth, I like it that way. Even pre-pandemic, if I socialized with people on a Friday night, I would be perfectly content spending the entire next day on the couch watching documentaries by myself. I enjoy my company and I think doing so is a beautiful thing. However, I do still love spending time with the people who are most important to me. Humans are social creatures and need interaction with other humans to some extent. Some may crave socialization more than others, but ultimately it can be beneficial. Summer will be here before we know it and it’ll be time for outdoor picnics, barbecues, and parties. If the thought of attending these gatherings makes you anxious, here are 10 tips that may help you.
Plan what you are going to wear in advance
How many times have you thought to yourself “but what am I going to wear?” when invited to a social event? You think about it over and over in your mind before jumping to the conclusion that you have absolutely nothing to wear. I’m definitely guilty of doing this! Pick something from your closet that makes you feel confident whenever you wear it. Maybe it’s your favorite pair of jeans or that new dress that you got as a gift. This could even be a time to go shopping and treat yourself to a new wardrobe piece if you so desire. Who knows, it might end up being a good conversation starter!
Practice your favorite self-care method before you get ready
A little self-care can go a long way. If you’re feeling anxious about going to a social event, taking some time for yourself beforehand may help ease some tension and help you relax. Some ideas include:
- Taking a bubble bath
- Going for a walk
- Reading your favorite book
- Calling a friend to catch up
The possibilities are endless! Do whatever helps you to unwind.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you are feeling
Whenever I’m feeling anxious, sometimes actually saying “I’m feeling anxious today” aloud helps me. There’s something about hearing yourself say it out loud that just makes it feel different, in a good way. You could even call a family member, friend, or any loved one that you trust and talk to them about how you are feeling. They may even offer you a bit of advice. Acknowledging emotions is healthy! I almost always feel better after venting about something.
Choose when you are going to arrive
This idea came from a post from verywellmind.com. Individuals with social anxiety should arrive at a party on time or a bit early. That way it is possible to meet and mingle with other guests as they arrive. If you arrive late, walking into a large group of strangers may make you feel overwhelmed. This is an interesting point of view, and it definitely makes sense! Meeting new people a little at a time sounds much less intimidating than meeting them all at once.
Think about how to strike up a conversation with someone
Making small talk can be awkward sometimes, but let’s face it- you will not tell someone all the personal details of your life your first time meeting them. Here is another idea from verywellmind.com. If you go to a party where you don’t know anyone, which takes major guts, you’ll want to find somebody to talk to. Look for a friendly face or for someone who also appears to be alone (or both). Making a general comment about your surroundings or giving that person a compliment on their outfit will help break the ice. Who knows, one conversation topic may lead to another and before you know it, you may have a new friend. Don’t forget to smile!
Keep an open mind
I know it might sound cliché, but having an open mind can open some new doors for you. Say you’re invited to a gathering and you think of every excuse in the book to not go, but then end up deciding to go, reluctantly. What if you end up meeting someone at said gathering who can put you in touch with someone who leads you to your dream career? Or someone with whom you have similar interests? It may seem like the world is full of pessimists these days, but I assure you there are still many optimists out there. You never know who you’re going to meet!
Know that it’s perfectly fine to step away and have a few minutes to yourself
There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this. It sort of circles back to number three on this list- don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you are feeling! If you felt anxious, step away for a few minutes. Find a space away from everybody else, such as a bathroom or somewhere outdoors. If you have a friend at the party with you, invite them to join you, if you’d like their company. Take a few moments to take some deep breaths to help calm you down. I’ve discovered that inhaling for three seconds, holding it in for four, and then exhaling for five really helps me a lot. Repeat this, or whatever breathing exercise of your choice, a few times. If you have a friend with you, you can talk to them about how you feel, too.
Choose when you are going to leave
Knowing how much time you’re going to spend at a gathering in advance may help you reduce anxiety. This is another excellent idea from verywellmind.com and another perspective that did not cross my mind beforehand. Setting a time limit for how much time you’ll spend at a party is not a bad thing. It’s completely flexible, too. If you end up having fun and are feeling good, then you can stay longer. If you want to leave once the time that you set it up, that’s fine, too! Whether you stay for an hour or for the entire time, you showed up either way. Give yourself a brownie point for staying as long as you did.
Remember that you are not alone
I know that sometimes it feels like you’re all alone, but I promise you, you’re not. Think back to the aforementioned statistics about anxiety. It’s very common! So many people feel socially anxious at some point or another. Chances are that whatever kind of party you’re attending, there is at least one other person feeling the same way as you.
Give yourself a pat on the back for putting yourself out there
Socializing might not always be everyone’s favorite thing to do, but it is important for our well-being. I have definitely had times where I thought I just wanted to spend the day alone, but then a friend calls me up and invites me somewhere. Often, I end up happy that I went. Be proud of yourself for accepting a social gathering invitation, especially if you didn’t feel like going. Give yourself some credit for stepping outside of your comfort zone! Post-pandemic socialization might look different for some people and getting re-acclimated to society might take some time. Definitely take baby steps if you’d like, however, remember that human interaction is important.
Everybody feels anxious in social situations at some point or another and it is okay to feel that way.